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Timor - Corruption

Transparency International ranks Timor-Leste at 123 out of 168 countries on its Corruption Perceptions Index but the Government of Timor-Leste is taking some steps to combat corruption. In 2010, the Anti-Corruption Commission (CAC), an independent agency, opened its doors. That same year, the Office of the Prosecutor General also forwarded its first high-profile corruption case to the courts. Since then, the CAC has referred several cases to the Office of the Prosecutor General and has several ongoing investigations.

In September 2012, former Minister of Justice Lucia Lobato was convicted of maladministration of funds and sentenced to three-and-a-half years in prison in relation to charges brought while she was still in office. Her appeal was denied by the Court of Appeals, which increased her sentence to five years in December 2012; however she was pardoned by the President in August 2014. While struggling with a lack of available judges, the court continues to conduct hearings on other former government members, such as former Minister of Finance, Emilia Pires, together with former Vice Minister of Health, Madalena Hanjam.

Other corruption cases involving high-profile leaders, including the current President of the National Parliament, have not moved forward as of April 2016, due to claims of immunity. Business people operating in country increasingly report concerns about operational difficulties they ascribe to lower-level corruption in bureaucratic processing areas such as licensing, importation, and taxation.

The penal code provides criminal penalties for official corruption. The government faced many challenges in implementing the law, and the perception that officials frequently engaged in corrupt practices was widespread. Since taking power in February 2015, the government took steps to fight corruption by undertaking surprise inspections of government-run programs, increasing pressure to implement asset management and transparency systems, and making this a top priority.

The Anti-Corruption Commission (CAC) is legally charged with leading national anticorruption activities and has the authority to refer cases for prosecution. Although the CAC is independent, its budget is controlled by the government and can be changed, making the CAC vulnerable to political pressures.

During the year 2015 the CAC addressed several corruption cases. For example, in October a court found the former state secretary for public works and the former coordinator of the Ministry of Public Works guilty of four corruption-related charges. There were accusations of police, including border police, involvement in corruption--most commonly bribery and abuse of power. Police in some cases reportedly accepted bribes from brothels engaged in trafficking in persons. The chief of the PNTL investigations unit was convicted of corruption related to his failure to report in a drug trafficking case, but has appealed.

The law requires that the highest members of government declare their assets to the Court of Appeals, but the declarations do not have to be made public and there are no criminal penalties for noncompliance.

Efforts to strengthen anti-corruption processes continued in 2012. On 22 June, Timor-Leste’s executive summary of its self-assessment review on the implementation of the United Nations Convention against Corruption was adopted at a meeting of the Implementation Review Group of the Convention in Vienna; Timor-Leste became the fourth of 41 States parties under review in 2011 to publish it. The executive summary presented various recommendations, including to explore ways that would allow for more expeditious investigations; to consider including in the draft anticorruption law provisions to address gaps or enhance the effectiveness of the current laws on, inter alia, the protection of whistle-blowers and experts; and to include in the curriculum of the Legal Training Centre specialized modules on international cooperation on criminal matters relating to corruption.

UNMIT and UNDP continued to support the Anti-Corruption Commission, including by providing technical advice through the Convention review process. On 28 and 29 March, a workshop was organized by the Global Organization of Parliamentarians against Corruption and UNDP for parliamentarians and civil society representatives to provide substantial knowledge about the Convention and encourage more active involvement in the formal self-evaluation process. During 2012, the Anti-Corruption Commission submitted 14 completed investigations to the Office of the Prosecutor-General; 7 others were ongoing. On 8 June, the Dili District Court convicted and sentenced the then Minister of Justice to five years in prison and a compensation payment of $4,350 for unlawful conduct in the process of a procurement contract. The Minister subsequently submitted an appeal.

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